FRANKLIN FURNACE — The Clay Lady Panthers softball team began their SOC I title defense on Tuesday and did so with some familiar — and unfamiliar — faces to the diamond making winning plays.
In a road trip to Green, the Lady Panthers scored at-least one run in each of the first four innings and held the host Lady Bobcats scoreless — beginning their league slate with a 7-0 win and improving their overall mark to 4-2 (1-0 SOC I).
Two seasons ago, Clay’s rather senior-heavy roster went 13-1 in SOC I play and split the league championship with nearby rival Notre Dame who they also split their season series with in 2019.
The Titans, off to a 6-0 unbeaten start, also appear a threat to defend their league title.
The 2021 version of the Lady Panthers feature several first-time varsity starters, but also returnees with high school experience, such as junior pitcher Preslee Lutz and senior catcher Megan Bazler who made a strong impact on Tuesday’s outcome.
From the hill, Lutz pitched a complete game shutout in the win — allowing six hits, walking just two, and striking out a lucky 13 Green hitters.
Clay’s defense committed no errors and thus held the Lady Bobcats scoreless for just the second time this season.
“We didn’t hardly make any errors, that’s something that’s given us trouble in some games,” Clay coach Jason Gearhart said, after the win. “Preslee, when she’s healthy I think we can beat about anybody. It’s everything to keep her healthy and if sometimes it means taking a loss, we’re just going to have to take one.”
Bazler book-ended the Lady Panthers’ offensive output in the first four innings as she connected on a pair of solo homers for their first and sixth runs.
The Clay senior, also a University of Rio Grande signee, finished 3-of-4 at the plate and scored a team-high three runs.
Junior Jordyn Mathias finished 2-of-4 with a pair of RBI — one of which she collected on a double in the top of the seventh for Clayy’s final run.
Lutz also helped herself at the plate, driving in a pair of runs on a third inning single.
Kat Cochran, Shaley Munion, and Kailey Ware had a hit apiece in the in the victory.
“We have a long way to go — this is a young team. Some haven’t played in a couple of years, Megan and a few others have played travel ball. We’ve showed our youth at times this season. Today I thought we played really well against a great Green team that will give us another tough game when we play them down at our place.”
Green’s Gracie Daniels pitched a full seven innings in the decision and being credited for six earned runs on nine hits allowed.
Kasey Kimbler and Kaylee Blankenship both collected two hits (Kimbler 2-of-4, Blankenship 2-of-3) while Kame Sweeney and Emily Brady had a hit apiece.
Clay: 1 1 3 1 0 0 1 — 7 9 0
Green: 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 6 2
W: Lutz (C), L: Daniels (G)
Lutz (C) — 7 IP, 6H, 2BB, 0ER, 13Ks
Daniels (G) — 7 IP, 9 H, 3BB, 6 ER, 0Ks
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved